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Posted by on in Assessment


What are we grading for?

During teacher development I provide, grading is one of the topics most commonly brought up. We as teachers have an obsession (and rightly so) with how any activity, instructional method or new tactic fits into that little book (or software) where we calculate student grades.

If you think about it, grades mean so much to teachers because, a lot of times its what we are being graded on. I've never heard a parent thank a teacher for assessing a student as earning an "F" in their class. I have, however, heard a lot praise for teachers who have high numbers of passing students.

So what's in a grade?

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Posted by on in Assessment

I know you've heard it a thousand times before. But it's true - hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice.” -  Ray Bradbury

Many studies report that there is little gain from homework, yet I'm not ready to give up on math homework altogether as I believe homework still has value with regard to building good study habits, practice, and independent or family time to think deeply about math ideas. 

I do want to heed the homework research and results though by treating homework routines with greater care, differentiation, and simplicity. I don't want homework to turn into added struggle for students or families. Therefore I will establish a positive homework routine beginning on the first day of school. 

The routine I'll foster includes the following actions and goals:

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Posted by on in Assessment


Do you teach well? 

How do you determine the merit of your teaching? How do you relay this information to others?

It's difficult to be objective with regard to your own work. That's why it's important to create a self assessment process that helps to move you forward with your teaching and learning--a process that works in tandem with outside evaluations and assessments. 

For example, a main objective of my work next year is to teach math well. 

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Posted by on in Assessment

Giving students opportunities to express their knowledge is important. But students are sometimes limited in their capabilities to show understanding if they are only given the opportunity to just write out their ideas.

Some children are better speakers. Some children struggle with the language of instruction. Some children need visuals, not just words to express their ideas.

This semester we decided to try something new with our sixth graders. Now that they all have their own laptops, we wanted to design new avenues for students to document their understanding. And we were also looking for ways for students to share their understanding with the greater community at school: the entire Sixth Grade.

There are students who will do their best to make great work for their teachers. This does not however motivate all students. After all, no one will see the finished product besides the teacher. If they fail or make silly mistakes, only the student and the teacher will know. If students are sharing something with their peers, it better be good. They want their peers to see them shine.

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Posted by on in Assessment


I've found myself trying to explain the difference between norm and standards reference multiple times in the last few weeks, which means it's time to write about it. A lot of people get this distinction-- but a lot of people don't. I'm going to try to do this in plain(ish) English, so those of you who are testing experts, please forgive the lack of correct technical terminology.

A standards-referenced (or criterion-referenced) test is the easiest one to understand and, I am learning, what many, many people think we're talking about when we talk about tests in general and standardized tests in particular. 

With standards reference, we can set a solid immovable line between different levels of achievement, and we can do it before the test is even given. This week I'm giving a spelling test consisting of twenty words. Before I even give the test, I can tell my class that if they get eighteen or more correct, they get an A, if they get sixteen correct, they did okay, and if the get thirteen or less correct, they fail.

A drivers license test is also standards-referenced. If I complete the minimum number of driving tasks correctly, I get a license. If I don't, I don't.

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